Déjà vu

I recently learned about Ksenia Karelina’s arrest in Russia. According to CNN, “Ksenia, a dual citizen, went to Russia to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, parents and younger sister. She has been accused of treason for allegedly donating $51.80 to a Ukrainian charity in the US.”

She became an American citizen in 2021 but Russia does not accept dual citizenship and she now faces a potential 20 year prison sentence if found guilty. Treason? Because of a fifty-dollar donation supporting Ukraine? Boggles the mind. Putin’s re-creating a Stalin terror-state.

My grandfather was found guilty of treason back in 1937.  That was under Stalin. A person charged under Article 58 was considered an ‘enemy of the people’ and a counter-revolutionary.   The law was in place until 1958 under Nikita Krushev. That was the same year my surviving relatives received letters of ‘rehabilitation’ from the Soviet government, entitling them to pensions. 

With Yuri, translator who helped me peruse a thick file
involving my grandfather in the secret police files/Zhytomyr

Modern Russia’s version of Article 58 is Article 275, updated in April 2023. It defines treason as "espionage, disclosure of state secrets, or any other assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation."

It’s been 20 years since I accessed the secret police files in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. With the help of a translator, I read through my grandfather’s file along with the files of his brothers. On thin pink papers, I read of the money he received from family and a church group in Poland and East Prussia. Eight DM (Deutsch Marks) in July, 1934, 11 DM (Deutsch Marks) in November, 1934, another 8 DM in April, 1934. A pittance of money to help him survive as he struggled to get an exit visa out of the country.  A pittance was all it took to charge him with treason. Translated, from his file:

Executions were carried out in the basement of this building
- former NKVD headquarters in Zhytomyr

“Found guilty on August 28 and  condemned to death.  This should be carried out on September 19, 1937 at 3:13.” 

And now, a young woman, accused of treason for sending a Ukrainian charity fifty-one dollars. Déjà vu, indeed!

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